Arias from Giulio Cesare, Alcina, Theodora, Rodelinda and Agrippina & Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas
Sonya Yoncheva (soprano), Karine Deshayes (mezzo-soprano); Academia Montis Regalis/alessandro De Marchi
Sony Classical 88985302932 61:01 mins
Though known for her Bizet, Verdi and Bellini, Sonya Yoncheva trained with William Christie, and has always cultivated Baroque repertory. Here she resumes her collaboration with the Academia Montis Regalis (joined by Karine Deshayes for two duets) to perform the indomitable females of Handel’s operas: Alcina, Morgana, Cleopatra, Theodora, Agrippina, Rodelinda.
Yoncheva is a force of nature. Her top notes merit a gale warning, her words drip with passion, and the bloom of her lowest register equals that of her top. Yet she is above all an artist. Singers this powerful often let the voice take over. She does the opposite, playing her voice as a period instrument. The effect invokes wonder, just as prima donnas reportedly did in the 18th century. In Cleopatra’s ‘Se pietà di me non senti’, the heroine longing for death, Yoncheva lets her voice drift, erasing the meter, and sometimes ending phrases without vibrato, so evoking on a deeply physical level the bleakness of despair. In Morgana’s ‘Tornami vagheggiar’, trying to win the man she loves (actually a woman), Yoncheva lightens her timbre, and emphasises the impudence of Morgana with her own staccato additions. Director Alessandro de Marchi succeeds in freshening up potentially shop-worn arias, such as Cleopatra’s ‘Piangerò’. Berta Joncus